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Andrew’s Game Reviews: “Sea of Thieves”

by Andrew Lindeman


My name is Andrew Lindeman, and I want to share with anyone reading my thoughts on video games in a way that I think will be constructive. I am not going to rate the games on a number system, but just give you an honest suggestion of whether it is worth your money and time. Some games are going to be worth the full sixty dollars right then and there, while others I will suggest you go rent or watch some videos to see if the game really is for you.

The Game

The inaugural review I will be doing is for a game called Sea of Thieves, the first big exclusive for Xbox One in over a year. Sea of Thieves is an always-online pirate game developed by Rare.

Within the cartoony, Caribbean-like setting of its world, you can, by yourself or with up to three friends, sail the vast, beautiful ocean and do what any good scallywag would do:  dig up gold, fight reanimated skeletons, and go on merchant trading missions. Sadly, that’s all there is to do in the game and it gets old faster than you would think.

Starting the game, you wake up in a tavern on one of the game’s outpost islands (which you do every time you boot up the game) and have to figure out what your quest is. Very few tutorial hints – hints that are not well shown and don’t really explain much except what buttons do – are given so you have to figure out most of the game by putting it together yourself.

You will find that there are four merchants and three quest givers on the island along with the bartender and the mysterious stranger in the pub. Four merchants sell all the visual flair changes that you can make to your character and boat. From peg legs and hooks to grog mugs and swords, they’ve got you covered. There is no progression system for your character in this game. So anything you buy is purely decorative.

It’s also literally all you can buy. Problem is, everything is way too expensive for how little gold you get on your missions. Ten hours of doing missions, I only made two thousand gold. Any cosmetic addition to your ship, whether it be a sail or figurehead for the prow, cost seventy-thousand gold.

I wasn’t going to be decorating anytime soon.

The three quest givers each seemed to pay around the same and there missions aren’t as different feeling as you would think. First, the Gold Hoarders, they give you maps that lead to buried treasure. Following the map, you sail to an island, dig up the chest, put it on your boat and bring it back to get your cut. Pretty simple.

Second would be the Order of Souls; they will give you an assignment on where to go and kill a pirate skeleton captain. So you go to the island they told you to, wander the beach until you found skeletons that would attack you, defeat them and take the captain’s skull back to get your reward.

These are the most fun of the three options, even though the combat is simplistic as can be. Swordplay has three maneuvers:  slash, charge, and block. Guns all have five shots and don’t do that much more damage than the swords. Once you have slashed one skeleton, you have fought them all. Also, they are the only bad guys in the game so you have now fought everything in the game.

Third, and my least enjoyed mission type, is the Merchant Alliance. These people basically give you a grocery list and tell you what to go pick up and where to deliver it. The huge problem with the quests for this were the fact that they don’t tell you where the stuff is so you have to wander island after island hoping it has chickens or pigs or whatever thing they wanted you to find. I suggest looking up a guide online so you don’t just waste your time chasing chickens.

Though the missions themselves don’t hold much depth, the sailing and ship-to-ship combat is well executed and fun. Sailing a boat in this game really is the highlight of the whole package. Raising the sail and changing its direction to catch the wind at a better angle really affects the speed at which you travel.

Dropping anchor and cranking the wheel will cause you to do a 180-degree turn, great for maneuvering during combat. Getting caught in a storm means rain will get into your ship so you have to scoop it out with buckets so you don’t sink from taking on water.

The way the waves crash and move the ship makes the ocean seem active along with the fact that the water is the most beautiful water I’ve ever seen in a game. The lighting, that makes it blindingly bright when the sun is at just the right angle to when the moon is out and it has a glow to it, really sells this being a real ocean.

There is no fast travel from island to island so commanding a ship is a majority of the gameplay. To fill the time you can play your accordion or hurdy-gurdy; the most recognizable song that will play is “Flight of the Valkyries.”

Combat on boats is enjoyable but you don’t get to do it very often. Within the time I played, I only saw three other players’ ships and I only fought one. The other two went on with their day while the one I fought started shooting cannonballs at me while I was anchored and I still managed to beat him.

Technically, the game has some issues, but they are the kind that within a few weeks should be fixed.

First is that sometimes the quests wouldn’t give the rewards when returned. The mission would be complete but you wouldn’t upgrade your status with the faction or get gold. Eventually, I did get my rewards but some took multiple hours to arrive.

Next is the glitch stutters I would have where it would move my character back and forth really quickly; annoying, but not a big problem.

Last is that sometimes the game would just boot me off, which was annoying because I would lose any progress I hadn’t turned in yet.

I have to mention, there are things I didn’t ever see that are in the game but they are rare moments and not part of the main structure of the game. If you have a full four-person crew, there is a chance a kraken will attack.

The other things are seeing a shark or a sunken boat. I apparently never went into the water at the right spots. Another is the endgame where the missions get more complicated and you get a hideout of your own. This apparently takes leveling all three factions to top rank, which takes at least over fifty hours which I’m not going to get to anytime soon.

The Final Verdict: Try before you buy (Rent, Borrow, Game Pass).

My final thoughts on this are that even though there are mechanics for a great game here, right now it just feels bare bones. Commanding a boat is great. Lack of leveling up or upgrading equipment means nothing is ever going to get harder or easier, it will always just be.

There isn’t much in the way of excitement after the first few hours. Mission and enemy variety is scarce and the lack of AI boats going around makes the ocean seem too empty. Playing with friends is better, but that is true of most every game that can be played with another person. This game is just a bit more reliant on that.

Lacking depth but having good mechanics, I suggest this as rent or wait for an incredibly low price way down the line. There is Game Pass on Xbox, a Netflix-like service for games, which is $10 a month for an over-100-game library including other Xbox exclusives.

That is how I tested it, so if you try Sea of Thieves and it disappoints, you can always download a different game to enjoy.

Andrew’s Extras

Along with every review, I am going to also provide a few suggestions for other fun or interesting things. Usually, it will be game or games related, but there will be more off-topic things as well.

Three things for you this time that I have been enjoying myself recently: a game for your phone, a game for your console/PC, and a book.

Florence is something I would say anyone who has been in a serious relationship before will especially appreciate. It is a wonderfully drawn interactive comic that has some amazing music throughout its run time of about 30 to 45 minutes. The game has an interesting way of using simple, puzzle-like game mechanics to invoke communication and feelings between the two main characters. It costs $3 and if you have nice headphones, wear them while you play.

Super Hot gave me an idea of how it would feel to be Neo from the Matrix movies whenever he went into slow-mo. It is a first-person shooter where nothing moves unless you move. People, bullets, shards of glass; everything in this world waits on you. This gives every level a puzzle-like feel of how you are going to handle the situation with what you have at hand.

The story isn’t very in-depth, but it is enough to give you a creepy, sci-fi vibe throughout its run time of roughly two hours. Once you beat the story, it unlocks an endless mode and challenge modes to test your skills with. It costs $25 dollars and is on PS4, XBOX ONE, and PC.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games are Made is a book written by Jason Schreier, one of the best journalists in video games. It is the tale of development for ten different video games and the struggle the creators go through to make the games we get to play.

The games covered range from indie darlings like Stardew Valley and Shovel Knight to big triple-A games like Destiny and Diablo 3. As someone who plays a lot of games, it really gave me an appreciation for the work it takes for me to have some fun in front of my TV.

For those of you reading that are new to the hobby or just don’t know a lot about games, I think you will still get plenty out of it because the author takes the time with little annotations to explain the definitions and backstories behind what is being covered in the book. You can pick up a copy on Amazon for right around $10.


My email is af-lindeman@wiu.edu. Hit me up if you have any further questions on anything in this article, games coming out soon, or just want to hit me up to play games.

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